With the hustle and bustle of everyday life, spending some time in the Great Outdoors can be just what we need to combat stress and have an escape.
Hiking is just one of many ways to relax and escape, but before hitting the trails there are some crucial safety tips you must know!
From the proper gear to bring to best practices while out on the trails, check out these safety tips before you head out.
1. Bring the 10 Essentials
Even if you’re just out on a short hike, there are a few lightweight things you need to bring with you to prepare for any situation. These items are commonly referred to as “The 10 Essentials” in the outdoors community.
- Navigation: Bring a map of the area and a compass, or a satellite GPS. Cell phones can’t be counted on in the wilderness because the signal commonly doesn’t reach!
- Light: bring a flashlight or headlamp with extra batteries. Again, cell phones have dim flashlights and die quickly, make sure you have a good source of light (just in case)!
- Sun Protection: You can burn more quickly on overcast days than on sunny days, so sun protection is always essential. This can include sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat.
- First Aid: You can purchase a camping or hiking first aid kit, or put one together yourself. Yours should include foot care, bandages, and insect repellent at the least!
- Fire: In the event that you need to start a fire, you’ll need to actually be able to start it. Waterproof matches, a lighter and some firestarters should do the trick.
- Knife: Bring along a multi-tool with a knife in case you need to build a shelter or make repairs to your pack or bag.
- Shelter: A garbage bag is a lightweight solution to shelter. It is compact and can protect you from wind and rain.
- Food: Aside from whatever you’re bringing for meals on the hike, bring some extra protein bars or trail mix.
- Water: Water can add a lot of weight, but make sure you have what you need for the hike. Bringing extra water is a good idea in an emergency but if you’ll be in a location with known fresh water sources, a lifestraw or water purification tablets will do the trick.
- Clothing: Dress in layers or pack a jacket/hat in case the temperatures drop rapidly!
2. Start Early In The Day
All hikes should be started as early in the day as possible. Hikes can take longer than you initially estimated and darkness comes more quickly under a canopy of trees than it does elsewhere.
Starting your hike early in the day is not only an essential hiking safety tip, but also gives you more time to enjoy the adventure and have more time in nature!
3. Research the Area
Whether it’s a new area or just a new trail, make sure you’re familiar with the area. You always need to check for local and regional hiking information to be as prepared as possible. Be sure to check the websites for the trail or wilderness area you’re heading to. Familiarize yourself with:
- The terrain and elevation changes and weather
- Local hunting seasons and areas
- Local wildlife and what to do in an encounter
- Potentially dangerous or poisonous plant life
4. Always Stay On The Trail
This is one of the most important hiking safety tips. Leaving the trail is always a bad idea, even if you think you’ll come right back to it.
Not only is it against Leave No Trace principles (leaving the trail damages valuable plant and insect life), stepping off/losing the trail is one of the number one reasons hikers become lost. It is so easy to get turned around and it can be incredibly difficult to tell the trail from another clear area of ground.
Never leave the trail.
5. Don’t Hike Alone
Everything, including hiking, is better with a friend. Bring a friend or a group of people along on your hiking trips! One of the best safety precautions you can have is another person there to help in the event of an emergency or injury.
If you’re the type of person who wants to hike alone for the silence and solitude, bring a friend who has those same values.
If you do choose to go alone, let someone know where you are going, what route you are taking, when you are starting and when you should be back. This ensures that help will be on the way ASAP in an emergency.
6. Don’t Interact With Wildlife
Observing wildlife from a distance is one of the coolest benefits of hiking, but you should never interact with them.
Interacting with and attempting to feed wildlife causes them to lose their fear of humans, and they start to become nuisance animals.
It’s not good for their safety or yours, especially if they’re considered predators! Once bears start to associate humans with food, they often have to be moved from their environment or euthanized due to the dangers that come with this association.
Don’t leave behind food scraps or garbage that they could scavenge, always pack out what you bring in, even things like apple cores.
7. Know Trail Etiquette
While you’re out hiking, you may encounter a variety of other outdoor enthusiasts and it’s important to know the proper interactions for your safety and theirs!
- Other Hikers: Uphill hikers always have the right of way. If you’re going down a hill or cliff face, always let uphill hikers pass you unless they specifically move aside for you.
- Bikers: Mountain bikers are supposed to yield to hikers, but it’s important to be aware of them. Bikers are often moving much faster than hikers and can come up quickly and silently behind you.
- Horses: Horses and their riders get the right of way on a trail at all times. When meeting or passing horses on the trail, step aside and give them a lot of room. Don’t make any sudden movements that may spook them and allow them to safely pass.
These are general right-of-way rules for hikers, bikers and equestrian riders and knowing them can make a hike in a popular area go smoothly.
Bringing the proper gear, knowing where you’re going and what to do in case of emergency can make all the difference.
All it takes is a little research and preparation to be fully prepared for any kind of excursion… Now, go take a hike!